Pirate football team to set sail in fall 2024

Port High’s leaders say WIAA football conference realignment falls short of the goal line due to travel time


Ozaukee Press staff

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Board of Control approved a football conference realignment plan last week, and Port Washington’s coach and athletic director aren’t giving it a standing ovation.

The plan is to take effect in 2024 and calls for the Pirates to remain in a shrunken East Central Conference with two new opponents and two others from the Badger - Small Conference.

Travel time will increase for the Pirates.

East Central schools of Ripon, Berlin, Sheboygan Falls and Waupun will be moved to a different conference, and Badger - Large schools Beaver Dam and Watertown are moving to the East Central.

To reach seven conference games, two mandatory crossover games would be played with schools from a realigned Badger - Small Conference, which has schools in the Madison area. The league includes Edgewood, Lakeside Lutheran, Mount Horeb/Barneveld, Portage, Sauk Prairie and Stoughton.

“We felt the ECC was a competitive conference last season with six of the eight teams qualifying for the playoffs. Unfortunately, we have been included in the conference realignment that has affected a large amount of the state,” Port Washington High School Athletic Director Nate Hinze said.

He pleaded Port’s case to no avail.

“When the proposal came out, I traveled to Stevens Point to voice our concerns with the additional travel time to our sister conference, and how this will affect our lower level games that happen during the school week. We also proposed a different conference to the WIAA that, we felt, was competitive and also limited our driving time. Unfortunately they declined our proposal. We are disappointed in the decision and the new conference, but we have exhausted our options.”

Port football coach John Bunyan said he empathizes with some of the schools’ plights.

“I understand the realignment. We were the team in the North Shore a few years ago that wanted relief. We were playing schools with higher enrollments and a division higher. So I do understand teams like Ripon and Waupun wanting competitive balance,” Bunyan said.

But Bunyan too, dislikes the distance between schools.

“I am not in favor of traveling to the Madison area for crossover games, specifically with our junior varsity teams during the week. That will be a strain on players and families schedules,” he said.

Among the new crossover opponents, Lakeside Lutheran in Lake Mills is the closest to Port, a 57-minute drive. The others are in the 1 hour, 50-minute range or more than two hours away.

Most of the schools leaving the East Central are closer. Sheboygan Falls is a 30-minute drive, Waupun is 70 minutes, Ripon is one hour, 22 minutes and Berlin is one hour, 36 minutes.

The two new schools in the East Central, Beaver Dam and Watertown, are each about a one-hour, 15-minute drive away.

With 825 students, Port would be in the middle of the newly designed conference when it comes to school population.

Among the bigger schools, Watertown has 1,187, Beaver Dam has 1,145. Among the smaller ones, Plymouth has 739, Kewaskum has 580 and Kettle Moraine Lutheran has 534.

Of the crossover games, Port is also in the middle. Stoughton has 905 students and Mount Horeb/Brownsville has 899. Sauk Prairie has 886, Portage has 730, Edgewood has 528 and Lakeside Lutheran has 459.

Last year’s Badger - Small standings were: Mount Horeb/Barneveld, 7-0; DeForest, 6-1; Monona Grove, 4-3; Stoughtton, 3-4; Portage, 3-4; Sauk Prairie, 1-6; and Fort Atkinson, 1-6.

Beaver Dam was 2-5 and in second-last place in the Badger - Large, and Watertown was 0-7.

Last year’s East Central standings were: Kewaskum, 6-1; Port Washington, 5-2; Berlin, 5-2; Plymouth, 5-2; KML, 3-4; Sheboygan Falls, 3-4; Ripon, 1-6; and Waupun, 0-7.

The proposal was part of a larger plan addressing 10 appeals from 18 schools that the Conference Realignment Task Force recommended to the WIAA Board of Control. A few of the plans were sent back to the task force for review this spring, but the one affecting Port was approved.

For more information, visit www.wiaawi.org/News. For the plans, visit https://tinyurl.com/4vhcjaxf.



Click Here to Send a Letter to the Editor

Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


User login